Thursday, April 29, 2010


Last week I spent time away at a cabin with family and a few friends. The only way to get to it was by boat, and once there, we were cut off from Internet access and telephones. Cell phone signals were weak, and while we had a TV, it worked for DVDs only--if you happened to bring any.

I loved it.

We explored the tucked-away inlets of the lake by boat or kayaked across the quiet waters as far as we dared go. We played games, read, slept, ate, and celebrated a couple birthdays.

It was a tech-free time away.

When I returned, I settled into wrapping up preparations for a talk that I gave this morning—on quite the contrasting topic. Technology addiction.

Among the facts, research, and studies covered was one called 24 Hours Unplugged, with findings released just last week. 200 students from the University of Maryland participated. They were to abstain from technology and media for one day and then blog about their experience.

A few facts about the project:

It was led by Susan Moeller, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland and the director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda.

When the 24 hours was up, the students blogged 110,000 words—the same number of words as a 400-page novel. (Hmmm . . . this gives me an idea for how to finish my next book.)

What they seemed to write most strongly about was the lack of access to text messaging, instant messaging, phone calls, e-mail, and Facebook. Moeller said that “going without media meant, in their world, going without their friends and family.”

One said, “I felt quite alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable.”

Many admitted they were “incredibly addicted” to media. Students wrote of how they felt while abstaining for the 24-hour period, using descriptions similar to those that go with drug and alcohol addictions: withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, extremely antsy, miserable, jittery, and crazy feeling
I bet those were freaky symptoms to discover. I wonder what they thought about that, what they decided about their technology lifestyle.

Some participants reported revelations and benefits of abstaining:
“I took better notes and was more focused.”
“It was actually a relief to step away from (my computer) and spend time doing other things.”
“I picked up on more details and things about people I live around that I had never
noticed before.”
“I realized how much media causes me to miss out on physical fitness and healthy eating habits.”
“I probably had more ‘thinking time’ that day than any day spent at college.”
“By not being able to listen to my iPod, I could hear natural sounds like birds chirping or people calling my name.”

Wow! I can relate to that last one when I think again about my recent time away. The call of an osprey flying overhead. The rhythm of raindrops on the roof. Water lapping against the kayaks and the splash of oars sliding in and out. Conversations and laughter of friends and family. Thoughts and prayers slipping through my mind as I watched the moon slide across the sky.

Wonderful sounds. Unforgettable experiences. God calling my name.



Julie Garmon said...

Beautiful, Jan.

Jan Kern said...

Thanks, Julie. It was a beautiful time with family.